By Andrea Patricia
Whether it’s undergraduate research to get into a great graduate school, or to become exposed to a future prospective career, we all have to start somewhere. So as we all make mistakes along the way in our career in academia, here are some mistakes that are common yet preventable:
Not capitalizing on a research opportunity because it doesn’t pay.
The motive to become a researcher assistant is not for financial gain; it’s for immersion into the field of study. Although the financial incentive is nice, it is not the end of the world if it is not bestowed upon you early on in your research career. What matters most is if this opportunity gives you a chance to explore the field, meet some wonderful professors/other researchers, and gives you experience. That is worth more than any amount of money.
Not having a good attitude/ being dogmatic.
This is more than just having an off day or making a few mistakes. A good and productive attitude is key to being a good research assistant. Make sure you are offering to help whenever you can, and to always keep a good attitude no matter how stressful times get. Word spreads around quickly whether or not you are easy to work with. For the head of the lab, it can also be a deciding factor for whether or not they promote you to a higher position.
Choosing a mentor that will actually mentor
There are two things to consider when choosing a mentor. The first thing is: knowing a general idea of what kind of research you would like to partake in. However, the most important thing to look for when choosing a mentor is one who is interested in polishing a diamond in the rough
Being unaware of the research going on in the lab
It is imperative to know what type of research is going on in the lab, especially when it comes time to applying to graduate school. If you work a lot on Assay XYZ as a research assistant, you should know why, what the assay is measuring, and how this fits with the research questions in the lab. In knowing these important factors, communication becomes easier because the jargon is. Thus, there will be more time to get into the real fun, researching!
Not being honest and assertive
Your Professor and other lab members are human too, so they are bound to make mistakes. If you see any data or lab experiments that seem problematic or even wrong, do not hesitate to question the work. It is not a sign of stupidity or vulnerability; it’s a sign of compassion and curiosity. A researcher appreciates their assistant paying close attention to the details that make up the big picture. It also saves a lot of time that can be put to good use for other matters.